7/31/2012

Thoughts on Yeshiva Student Deferrals

As a taxpaying Israeli with two sons who will one day, in all probability, serve in the IDF (and also hopefully spend a good amount of time studying Torah seriously), I despise the fact that there are blanket military deferrals for yeshiva students. Its social and economic impact on this country are outrageous, as many have noted.

And yet, when I set out to study the history of these deferrals closely, I began to realize how difficult - even impossible - it would be to change this state of affairs. Many of us are used to thinking of Israel as an American or European style democracy, in which all are equal before the law. But Israel is not, and never has been, that type of democracy. From the earliest days of the state, it has been conceived as a form of consociationalism, in which Haredim were given a certain degree of cultural autonomy in return for their agreeing to join the state. The vast majority of the state, if it had its way, would abrogate this social contract, but can and should such an agreement be breached unilaterally? I tend to think not.

The Tal Law expires tomorrow. I do not know what the future holds, but I tend to think that the agreement will remain largely intact, and Haredim will continue to serve as a matter of personal choice and not as a matter of conscription.

My full analysis appears today on Jewish Ideas Daily.

Unrelated: here's a Times of Israel article on our Thursday Night event.


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